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Dez and Megae

Published October 26. 2013 09:00AM

Our grandson Jordan and his wife Cierra live in California. They are both in the Air Force, stationed together. They have an apartment close to their base and they share their home with two kittens and a puppy.

Their puppy is a German shepherd named Dez and he is a little cutie. We have seen pictures of him online and understand why Jordan and Cierra fell in love with him.

What they didn't know when they adopted Dez is that he suffers from canine megaesophagus a nasty disease that requires a lot of care on the part of the owner.

In megaesophagus (which from now on I will call megae), the muscles in the esophagus fail and can't propel food into the stomach. The ingested food sits in the esophagus, causing it to stretch like an old balloon.

The dog can aspirate food and that can lead to pneumonia and, sometimes, choking to death. So, the owner must make sure that the dog stays in an upright position for eating and remains that way for a period of time afterward so that gravity helps the food reach the stomach.

There are special chairs designed for megae dogs of all sizes. These are called Bailey chairs. The wonderful woman who made a chair for Dez also helped Jordan and Cierra by dog-sitting for Dez when they had to be gone. If you want to check out the website, go to "bailey chairs 4 dogs" and see the pups she has helped.

Folks may wonder about the prognosis for megae dogs. The fact that little Dez had the disease from birth must mean that it is genetic. There have been cases of a dog's esophagus getting stronger and recovering, but the instances are rare.

For most dogs, this disease is a life-long issue. And, for many of them, other ailments come along that are caused by the megae.

It was disheartening to hear that many vets recommend that megae dogs be put to sleep. Also, some vets are not familiar with the disease and find it hard to help. There is a group of megae dog owners who started a Facebook page so that they can give each other support. The stories on that page are hard to read.

For anyone who loves a dog, watching them suffer is a trial. But, the owners continue to find ways to improve the conditions for their dogs. Constant vigilance is the key.

In the case of Dez, Jordan and Cierra have busy lives and a lot of responsibility. They take the time to make sure that Dez is happy and as healthy as possible.

When the time comes for them to be parents of a child, the experience they have had taking care of Dez will have been good basic training for them.

If you would like to contact Dr. Smith, she can be reached at her e mail address:

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